December 1, 2021

Spring in China

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Celebrated across several countries in the world, the Lunar New Year, also known as Spring Festival, is a celebration like no other. It is China’s most important, and iconic festival, embodying all things in the vivid Chinese culture.  

Unlike the rest of the world that celebrates the Spring festival for a couple of days, China welcomes the season of Spring with 15 days long of celebrations and festivities. This means that China goes on a national holiday for 15 days. Each year, the new year falls on a different date as it follows the moon. Nonetheless, the period in which it is celebrated is generally between January to February. 

For those who uses the Lunar calendar, it is not surprising that their birthdays fall on different days when pegged to the gregorian calendar. For some modern Chinese, celebrating two birthdays is a norm, and why not!


Each new year is also represented by a zodiac sign and follows a zodiac cycle as well. There are 12 animals in this cycle, each with its own significance. Each animal represents a year, and anyone born within the year will then be associated with that zodiac sign. 

Observe your speech and dressing

To the Chinese, the new year ushers in prosperity and it is regarded to be an auspicious time. During the 15 days, one must observe their speech, and even dressing to welcome luck and beckon a good aura for the rest of the year. As an expat, it is strongly recommended that you observe the customs and practices, and especially avoid wearing black, for an immersive Lunar New Year experience.

Exodus within China

The 15 days of celebration is also the largest human migration as locals travel home to be reunited with their families. The Spring festival is like Thanksgivings and Christmas but doused in red, feastings, firecrackers, shopping, visitations, absurd customs and all things celebratory only that it throngs for 15 days or sometimes longer.

The ‘Nian’ Legend

Celebrating the Lunar New Year in China can be one of the highlight experiences you have as a teacher in China. The Lunar New Year is a monumental holiday that is deeply rooted in Chinese heritage and history. According to the folklore, the intensity of the celebration especially during Spring is due to one boy’s bravery who fought the Nian monster that terrorised people on New Year’s Eve. The boy used firecrackers to frighten the monster away and the people celebrated even further by setting off more firecrackers which is why lighting firecrackers is part of the Spring Festival tradition. 

In most Chinese cities, firecrackers are banned due to the risks involved. However, some still hold on to the belief that lighting them at midnight will continue to scare the Nian monster and all the bad luck while ushering in an auspicious new year. 

The Chinese revere luck. They have a god for it too, called god of fortune, cai shen ye. As part of ushering in the new year, the married and older generation distribute red packets filled with money to the younger generation. 

Money & Luck

This practice is also common among bosses and employees which is also a symbol of gratitude and luck. With technology, red packets are now transferred electronically instead of physical envelopes. While receiving the red packets, it is important to wish each health, wealth, and luck in a string of Mandarin phrases. We strongly suggest that you brush up on your Mandarin to impress your boss. He or she may throw in more money next time!

Feasting goes without saying. For many homes, the celebrations start before the New Year. As people begin their journey home, dinner eaten on the eve of the Lunar New Year is the most important reunion family dinner for Chinese homes across the world. The dishes prepared are also symbolic of prosperity and happiness. For example, reunion dinners usually include a fish dish to beget abundance as there is a Chinese greeting which says “nian nian you yu”. “Nian nian” means every year, and “you yu” means to have abundance. “Yu” also sounds like fish in Mandarin which is why Chinese believe in having a fish dish for the most symbolic dinner of the year. 

The staunch beliefs of the Chinese revolving around health, wealth, and luck are also deeply seeded in the working culture. Before the new year, your bosses may observe practices they believe welcome luck. You may be invited to participate to shower yourself with some blessings. For many businessmen, when the company reopens after the holidays, employers may hire lion dance to “kai gong”, translating to start work. The lion dance is like a form of Chinese martial arts where men don a brightly coloured lion costume with broad moves simulating a lion. This dance includes drums and cymbals clashing, a ‘music’ like no other. 

If you are contemplating living and teaching in China, be sure to celebrate the Lunar New Year together with them. It is exciting, loud, and definitely an eye-opener to the Chinese culture. One of the ways you will know that Spring Festival approaching is the sightings of red everywhere. From homes to shopping malls, red lanterns line the streets in all forms of decoration. 

One of the perks of teaching in China is experiencing this diverse cultural exchange. It is why many grab teaching jobs in China. China offers an unrivaled teaching opportunity for ESL teachers and is one of the top destinations for teaching English abroad. 

If you are planning to teach in a public school, long holidays are part of the job perks. As a teacher in a private institution, school holidays may not apply to but this Chinese national Spring holiday is definitely yours to savour. Do note that during the Spring holidays, most of China is closed as many return home to celebrate with their families. It may not be the best time to visit popular attractions as they are likely to be closed. However, with 15 days in tow, you can definitely use the quietness to catch up on much-needed rest and prepare yourself for the mayhem of the school year ahead. Either way, the Spring Festival should top your list of experiences when living and teaching in China. 

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